Bookit Review: A Perpetual Estrangement

Title: A Perpetual Estrangement
Author: Alice B. Ryder
Publication Date: November 2016
My Grade: C

I’m once again am reading Jane Austin adaptations.  I really enjoy the ones based on Persuasion, which is my favorite of her novels.  This particular novel takes place in Modern England.  Anne Elliot is still Anne, but this time she’s moved away from her family.  She owns a bookshop she bought with her mother’s inheritance, and hangs out a lot with her mother’s side of the family (which takes place of the Musgroves.) She is estranged from her father and sister Roberta, which only gets worse as the book continues.

Frederick is replaced with Freddie, a young writer instead of soldier.  Roberta and Anne’s father talk Anne out of going on a world trip with him and they end up breaking up.  She regrets it, he’s trying to show he’s moved on, just like their literary counterparts.

I enjoyed this book to a point.  At times it seemed to drag on, and some of the related points seemed mixed up which isn’t too much of a problem.   The main problem seems to be that there isn’t much for me to say about it.  It’s not bad, but it’s not spectacular either.  The Author makes a point of reminding you throughout the book that this is a reimagined story, not just another modern version of the same story.  Some of the elements remain the same, but others have changed completely.  The book Persuasion (and other Jane Austen novels) are mentioned through out.

I think my problem was mostly I found it hard to connect with some of the characters.  Anne’s story has perhaps a bit too much sorrow.  The version of Cousin Elliot is a bit too far away from the original.  Most of his motivations are stripped away, and he’s after her Uncle who’s a literary agent. There are also a few scenes with Jane whose age I couldn’t really figure out.  She seems like she’s in her preteens but at the same time seems to be referred to as much younger. Freddie and Anne’s relationship is strained, like the original, but it seems the sudden Happily Ever After is, well, Sudden.  There isn’t so much the anticipation that he’s changed his mind.  Most of the time you are as confused as Anne as to what is going on.

Still, it was enjoyable and I wouldn’t avoid it.  If someone asked me if it was worth reading, I would say sure.  it’s a good rainy day read.  If you like Austen, this story is enjoyable if a bit awkward in parts.  I wouldn’t put it on my greatest reads list, but its alright.

~*~

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Bookit Review: Mr Darcy’s Mail-Order Bride

Title: Mr. Darcy’s Mail-Order Bride
Author: J. Dawn King
Publication: November 24, 2016 (Kindle/Kindle Unlimited edition)
Grade: C

This variation novel was alright.  I didn’t want to throw it out the window.  It just wasn’t something that made me want to ignore the clock and keep reading.  In this particular variation, Darcy and Bingley have become landowners in Oregon, seeking wives from the east due to a lack of possible wives in the West.  Darcy writes the letters for Bingley to Jane, the niece of an acquaintance of theirs, Mr. Gardner.  Elizabeth responds for Jane, and the two fall in love through the letters, not realising that they weren’t speaking with the real Jane/Bingley.   Thus awkwardness when the two arrive to be married (Darcy deciding at last minute to marry the sister).

This reads almost like vengeance fanfic.  Like Ms. King wanted to see characters she thought less of punished in some way.  Caroline is pretty much out of the picture right away, and Lydia barely spends any time before whisking away with Wickham (who keeps getting fired, and barely talks to Elizabeth).  Meanwhile Elizabeth and Jane remain the optimum examples of virtue and good nature.

So in a sense, it was like all the characters were more pushed towards the good/bad guy roles then they were in the original.  Poor Denny, the first-nameless soldier who makes the unfortunate decision to be friends with Wickham in the original book, now has become Wickham’s second hand man, possibly starting a fire at Bingley’s ranch.  Mr. Bennet turns out to just sit in his study and do nothing while his remaining children run close to starving. I must admit this is the first time where I’ve read a book and fault for the awkward marriage between the elder Bennets is placed on Mr. Bennet instead of just assuming he was dealing with a nutsy wife.

Although I did find the implication of Lydia/Colonel Fitzwilliam (who in this novel isn’t a colonel but crime lawyer) an intriguing idea.

Its an alright novel if you can’t get enough of Jane Austen variations, but nothing I’d put on my “read again later” list.

Bookit Review: Second Impressions

Title:  Second Impressions
Author: Amy George
Publication Date:  August 10, 2016 (Kindle Unlimited version)
Grade: C

The concept of Second Impressions is an interesting one.  In this, Darcy ends up holding up the engagement to Anne Darcy, and Elizabeth travels to America to visit some family there in an attempt to get over her heartbreak.

A few years later she returns to help her sister who’s expecting a baby and she is reunited with a depressed Darcy whose wife has died.  SHe and Darcy have to reintroduce themselves with who they are now.

The issue however, is that the book doesn’t really live up to the concept. In fact, the story seems to be almost more about Elizabeth’s gutsy futuristic cousin Emmeline Poston.   There is her awkward romance with John Dalton, and the side plot that really only shows up in the last third of the book where an Ex of Emmeline’s shows up and decides to kidnap her at Elizabeth’s wedding.

The positives of this book include an expansion of character with Charles Bingley, Jane, and Kitty.  They start to have more of a personality then in Austen’s original novel.  Although Jane seems more outgoing then she really was in the original material.

I feel like there are two novels in here, just both didn’t have enough so she threw them together and they didn’t meld as well as perhaps the Author hoped.

Although it should be noted that I didn’t realise it was a novella (despite that being listed on the cover) till I was finished with it.

Bookit Review: Epic Fail

Title: Epic Fail
Author: Claire LaZebnik
Publication Date: August 2, 2011. (Kindle version)
Grade: B-

Claire  LaZebnik has a series of novels that take the general plots of Jane Austen novels and makes modern versions of them.  In the case of Epic Fail she took Pride and Prejudice.  And in a sense, failed herself.

Now the book itself wasn’t horrible.  Let’s start with that.  It was a nice novel for the pre-teen set who like a little romance with their stories.  It doesn’t have overdone love scenes and for the most part is PG.  The only scene where it might be higher is where they discuss a possible sexual assault on a minor character.  I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from reading Epic Fail.  I just wouldn’t be “Oh, you definitely should!” should anyone ask me.

This year I’ve been reading alot of Jane Austen adaptions and variations.  Some are good, most seem to fail the mark in some way, and this one is no different.  Derek and Elise, the modern versions of Darcy and Elizabeth, don’t really feel like they have any connection to their 19th century counterparts.  Some of the structure of the original novel can be seen, but for the most part, I would say this was more an inspired by then a true modernization.   The characters seem to fill the slots but don’t really have much of the rest of it.  I do however like that this book took Kitty Bennet/Kitty Benton and gave her a personality.

So I’m going to give it a B-.  It’s a nice rainy day read, easy to digest and nothing that will make you want to throw the book out the window.  However, it’s not Jane Austen really.

Bookit Review: Eligible

Title: Eligible  (The Austin Project #4)
Author:  Curtis Sittenfeld
Published: April 19, 2016.  (Ebook available through Kindle Unlimited)
Grade: B-

I finally got back to my reading (I’m 10 books behind now in my planned timeline) so I have a few book reviews to do.  The first one on the list is another Pride & Prejudice related book.  This is a modern adapatation, Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (Goodreads).

I was a bit mixed on what grade to give this one.  I did enjoy as it started out, although the idea of the reality show aspect was a bit odd.  In this novel, Charles Bingley becomes Chip, a ER doctor who decides to take part in a reality matchmaking show (ala The Bachelor) after being convinced by his sister Caroline.  Darcy, also a Doctor, convinces him to come work in Columbus Ohio with him.

Jane & Lizzie are somewhat styled as the more adult of the sisters like in the original material, although Jane is trying for a baby via IVF and Lizzie has a ongoing affair with Jasper (who is the George Wickam of this story).

On one hand I was happy to see Kitty and Mary, often forgotten or made into cousins/pets in other modern variation, developed into characters with a firmer personality.  I think the writer was a bit harsh with Mary though.  Lydia as well was developed and I actually like the way they changed her, although she still has that callous way of dealing with her sisters.  Kitty has her own personality and isn’t just seen as Lydia’s partner in crime.

There are some awkward changes though.  Darcy’s and Lizzie’s relationship is a little less romantic then it tends to be in other adaptations.  And the end, while happy for everyone, seems almost sudden, like there is some missing steps inbetween the rest of the book.

That being said, if you enjoy P&P variations or adaptations, this is worth a try.  I’m going to give it a B-.  While the ending is a little odd with the characters, this book does a good job in developing minor characters.  It does emphaisis some characteristics in the antagonists of Caroline and Wickham that I’m not sure are necessary, but it works within the story.

I am considering reading some of the other books in the Austen Project.  As far as I know there are four books total, all modern retellings of Austen’s books.

Bookit Review: Shadows Over Longbourn

Title:  Shadows over Longbourn
Author: Jann Rowland
Publication Date:  April 8, 2016

My Grade:  B-

Once again, I found another intriguing Pride & Prejudice Veriation.  In the case of this novel, Elizabeth’s father Mr. Bennet dies before any of his daughters are married, but before he does he manage to convince distant relative Darcy to take in his daughters so they aren’t left to his cousin Thaddeus (father of our familar Mr. Collins).

This novel is not a bad one, although I find the opening sequence of events hard to connect to the original material.  Match of the characters remain the same, although Mary ends up more outspoken, and Lydia more aware (although not by much).  Instead of Wickham, who appears only briefly, the main villian is the elder Mr. Collins.  Its an alright story if taken by itself, although I don’t think it works as a strong variation of Pride & Prejudice.  However, it is one of the better ones I have read, and at least stands in the vicinity of what the original materal gives.

Its major issue is not the content, but the formating.  I feel as if the novel could have used a run or two through the editor’s pen before it was published.  Often the story would change POV without a clear distinction like some empty space or a character line.  There were a few other mistakes that could have been caught by an editor.  This didn’t make the story unbearable, but was something that was noticable.

Movie Review: Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

Title:  Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (2016)
Rating: PG-13

My Rating:  ….Ambigious.

You see,this movie is both bad, and good.  Its got some great chemistry between actors, and some of the alterations of characters due to the circumstances are really interesting.  It also has the occasionally good line.  I adore Matt Smith’s Collins, and Lena Hedly’s Lady Catherine makes you less likely to dispise the woman.  Charles Dance plays Mr. Bennet.  I knew Lily James as Ella, from the Live-Action Cinderella but didn’t realise she was Elizabeth untill I read the credits.  It also has some faces I’m unfamilar with like Sam Rielly and the rest of the cast I haven’t already mentioned.  I will say while his Darcy isn’t what I usually picture Darcy being, it fits within the scope of this film and he and Lily James work well off of one another.  It also gives some of the characters usually passed over in the original novel (Namely Mary Bennet) a chance to be shown a little more.

On the other hand some of the dialogue is very very cheesey and at times awkward (Example:  When Darcy, watching Elizabeth kick Zombie ass, realises that she’s not that bad looking after all, and starts explaining this to Bingley whose basically “Dude, Zombies.”). It also brings the hard question – If women are being trained for battle, why is it so off set with the sexism of the day?  Shouldn’t it have changed some of it?  Some of the interjection of the original material by Austen is a bit awkward.

So its hard to grade this movie.  I will say I enjoyed it, and I’ll probably purchase it eventually.  It really doesn’t make me want to read the novel (The one the film was based on, not the original P&P, which I have read).However, its the type of Zombie movie I enjoy.  The kind where there is a mix of genre (Action & Adventure, but also comedy and a touch of romance) and there are some surprising twists.